: Ome Calli Frozen Treats

Icy Treats to Beat Portland’s Summer Heat

Cool down with these frozen desserts from around the world.
June 7, 2023

Move over, ice cream cones. Growing up in Taiwan, I loved visiting night markets on sweltering summer nights with friends for street snacks, including bao bing — impressive mounds of shaved ice topped with red beans and grass-jelly cubes. On a warm day in Portland, a cool treat transports me right back to those days, as well as other sweet memories, like cendol, another iced dessert from my Singapore days and the sorbetto-like water ice of my college days in Pittsburgh. 

The options are endless when it comes to frozen desserts to stay cool during Portland’s glorious summers, and I’m sure there are fruity and creamy delights from your own days as a kid. You’ll find plenty of vegan and dairy-free options, too. From Mexican paletas and Hawaiian shave ice to Filipino halo-halo and Italian sorbetti, here are some of the coolest treats to chill out.


Popsicles, Dessert Bars and Slushies

Rebecca Smith, the queen behind Ice Queen vegan Mexican paletas (popsicles) in Southeast Portland, makes classics like cinnamony Oatchata — a play on the more familiar rice-based horchata — and tropical piña colada. Her imaginative creations steal the show, like tamale paletas with sweet masa ice cream and a fudgy Mexican chocolate center in a corn-husk wrapper. Check the store locator for where to buy the paletas at various markets and Mexican restaurants.

In Beaverton Ome Calli Frozen Treats is a favorite for refreshing watermelon and cucumber-chile paletas, as well as chocolate-dipped frozen bananas coated in coconut. Try the chamoyadas, a next-level concoction where a fruity paleta and tamarind candy come dunked in slushie-style fruit punch, swirled with dried mango chunks and chamoy — a condiment made of fruit, dried chiles and lime juice. Antojitos 3 Reyes in Gresham is a go-to spot for mangonadas — another slushie variation made with ripe, juicy mangos, then sprinkled with chile-lime seasoning.

At its two Northeast Portland shops, Kulfi specializes in the namesake frozen dessert served in many South Asian countries. A fruit-forward base is simmered and set in molds, instead of churned like ice cream. The result is a creamy bar bursting with ripe-fruit flavors like mango lassi or lychee rose. Cool down with a falooda — a dreamy kulfi dessert float with layers of mango, basil-seed pudding and coconut cream. You may also spot the popsicle cart and rainbow umbrella around town; follow Kulfi’s Instagram for upcoming events.

Jade Rabbit at The Emerald Room

Colorful Southeast Asian Crushed-Ice Desserts

At East Portland restaurant Wajan, marvel at the intricate batik tablecloths and murals depicting Indonesian folklore as you enjoy es cendol — one of chef Feny’s favorite childhood desserts. Served in the same way her mother and street vendors in Jakarta would make it, this treat comes with cendol — green gelatinized squiggles made of pandan and rice flour — and crushed ice, drizzled with sweet coconut milk and palm-sugar syrup. Add on ripe jackfruit for extra sweetness.

Cool off with Portland’s only vegan version of a Filipino dessert classic at Jade Rabbit at The Emerald Room in Northeast Portland. Cyrus Ichiza celebrates his heritage with halo-halo — which translates to “mix-mix” in Tagalog — a colorful mixture of ube halaya (purple sweet potato jam), condensed coconut milk, candied sugar palm fruit, sweetened mung beans and red beans over crushed ice.

For a similar layered dessert on ice, Vietnamese chè ba màu, visit Bambū Desserts & Drinks in Portland’s Jade District. You’ll find many variations of this parfait-style dessert topped with a sphere of crushed ice at this Vietnamese cafe chain. Dig into refreshing layers of pandan jelly, basil-seed pudding, coconut meat and longan (a lychee-like fruit) in the Bambu Special #1.


The Wondrous World of Shaved-Ice Treats

Inside a downtown Portland coffee shop, Soen wows with its Insta-ready Japanese kakigori (Japanese shaved ice). Snowy mounds arrive dressed in traditional toppings like sweet adzuki beans and tofu mochi or seasonal Oregon-grown fruits like strawberries, peaches and cantaloupe. If you love the bright green tea known as matcha, don’t miss the hybrid shaved ice and soft-serve sundaes with earthy matcha syrup and chewy mochi at Matcha Cafe Maiko in Southeast Portland.

Similar to its Japanese ancestor, Hawaiian shave ice can be found all over Portland. After shopping downtown at Powell’s City of Books, head across the street to Wailua Shave Ice Portland for fluffy shave-ice domes. Coconut fans will love the triple combo of coconut foam, coconut milk and toasted coconut flakes, while the Lava Flow is a tropical mountain of strawberry and pineapple. Or try the distinctly Oregon flavors at Island Daydream Shave Ice cart at Oaks Amusement Park for seasonal shave ice bursting with fresh-fruit combos like Hood strawberries with tarragon and Willamette raspberry with lavender.

A newcomer to Old Town Chinatown, Meet Fresh serves bao bing crowned with black-sugar boba, red beans and taro balls, like what you’d see at Taiwanese night markets. Venture to Mo Cha Tea House in Beaverton for another variation called xue hua bing, meaning “snowflake ice” in Mandarin. Often referred to as snow cream, this dessert involves layers of frozen milk, as opposed to flaky ice, flavored with taro and matcha.

At Snowy Village in North Portland — where Korean bingsoo (milk-based shave ice) is king — you’ll also see frozen milk used to create a fluffy, snow-like dessert. Try it with red bean and rice cakes or strawberries and whipped cream, or take yours dairy-free with oat milk. 

Hana’s Food Cart, a seasonal spot in North Portland, is best known for its New Orleans-style snowballs or sno-balls. Not to be confused with a snow cone, this fluffy, finely shaved frosty treat comes in all sorts of fun flavors — think cotton candy, margarita, strawberry cheesecake or sour cherry. The sweet and sour Kool-Aid-flavored pickles are worth a try too.

Vegan Philly cheesesteak cart Buddy’s Steaks in the Southeast is Portland’s home base for water ice, texturally somewhere between sorbet and shaved ice. Enjoy it in fruity flavors like cherry and orange cream or as a gelati layered with vegan vanilla-bean custard.

Pinolo Gelateria

Other Creamy Frozen Desserts

22 Below makes a unique Thai street-food dessert called i-tim-pad by spreading liquid ice cream on a frozen pan, then rolling it up as it freezes. Choose from flavor combos like mango-passion fruit, peanut butter-banana and oreo-Nutella at any one of their locations in Portland, Tigard and Salem.

At Pinolo Gelateria in Southeast Portland, the summer flavors reign supreme — thanks to beautiful fruit from Oregon farms like Topaz Farm, Baird Family Orchards and Sauvie Island Farms. You’ll definitely want the dairy-free Fioritura sorbetto made with Hood strawberries and elderflower syrup. Across town Staccato Gelato is home to over 120 unique gelato and sorbetto flavors, including balsamic vinegar, grapefruit Campari and bourbon-chocolate malt.

At its two Southeast Portland locations, Favela Brazilian Cafe serves coffee and snacks, including the iconic Brazilian açaí na tigela — a thick, smoothie-like frozen treat blended with açaí berries. Relax on the vibrant patio as you enjoy this dessert, served in the traditional style with bananas and granola. Over in Northeast Portland, Carioca Bowls piles its own high with berries, kiwi, nut butters and cacao nibs in coconut-shell bowls. 

About The

Waz Wu
Waz Wu is a food writer, content creator and event producer living in Portland, Oregon. She enjoys exploring restaurants, vegan cooking, gardening and cuddling her two cats Chloe and Lexi.

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